My husband loves music. In fact, before he became a pastor, he was a full-time musician. Our home is filled with music most of the time. We have this little dance we do when people come over. He picks out a playlist and turns up the music, then after a time I come by and turn it down because it’s too loud for background music. A little while later he comes by and turns it up again. And on and on we go throughout the night, never even realizing the other one is turning the music up or down. It’s quite comical.
Background Noise of Shame
As we’ve counseled people over the years, we often refer to the negative stories we tell ourselves as “background noise”. In my private practice, I encourage my clients to listen to those stories—to notice if what they are listening to is background noise or background music. Is it a noise that grates and irritates and keeps them from engaging or is it music that stimulates and encourages and delights?
While we were in seminary I began dealing with intense anxiety and panic attacks. The constant story I told myself was that I was “going crazy.” In other times of my life, my background noise was a constant reminder that I was fat or my hips were too wide or that my clothes weren’t right. Current untrue stories I sometimes tell myself are that I’m not a good mom or I’m a failure as a wife. Such background noise is destructive, and it’s just quiet enough that we don’t notice it’s even there. And that’s where the danger lies. We tell ourselves these things without even knowing it.
What stories are you telling yourself? If you quieted your soul, what whispers would you hear?
Dr. Kelly Flanagan, a clinical psychologist, says there is no identify formation, only identity excavation. What he means is, God has made us a certain way and we need to chip away to find our true self. Because we are made in the image of God, each of us has our own way that we express God’s glory. Our shame stories that we tell ourselves keep us from uncovering the way we uniquely reflect who God is. Excavation needs to happen; we call the process sanctification.
Music Shaped in Community
In my counseling practice, much time is spent with clients helping them learn to hear what their “background noise” or shame stories are, and what true music they need to play in their heads instead. But more important than the counseling room is our church community. In community, we gospel together. We share our brokenness and others speak back truth to us. Having someone hear your story, look you in the eye, and love you anyway is the way back to freedom. In the midst of community is where you will find tangible evidence of the gospel of Grace. This is light shining into the shadows. Living in community is the way we combat the background noise that shapes how we live. If we aren’t hiding, like Adam and Eve did, then shame has no power.
Taking those first steps into honest and true community is sometimes scary. Taking the first step could mean signing up for a community group, or maybe sharing honestly with some friends; it could even be sharing some of your background noise with a spouse or trusted friend. Taking those first steps can feel like stepping off a cliff but once you do, you’ll find freedom.
In daily life we need our people. We need our people to reflect back to us not only how we image God In a particular way, but we need them to teach us new songs to sing. We cannot do that in isolation. We need the beauty of the body to sing songs of truth for us when all we hear is background noise. We need the body to sing melodies of truth over our hearts when that noise overtakes us. We also need to do the same for others. We can take the true music we are learning and sing it to those around us.
Breaking free from our shame stories is hard work, but it’s a work God loves to bless.
Singing New Songs
Begin to dream about turning your background noise—your shame stories—into music. The first thing you need to do is pay attention. Begin to quiet your heart throughout the day and listen to that small voice speaking shame stories into your soul. What is it saying? “I let my kids watch too much tv today, I must be a bad mom.” “Nobody seems to care if I’m around, I’m worthless.” “I can’t stop myself from yelling, I wonder if I’m a real Christian.” “I wish my stomach didn’t have all these stretch marks.” “I will never be good enough.” These stories are untrue and contrary to what God thinks of you. Once you identify your background noise, you can speak Gospel truth over it. You are God’s beloved. You image God. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. God has not abandoned you.
What could the background music in my life and in your life look like? Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” God delights in you! The God who made the heavens and the earth, the sea and everything in it, that One, He delights in you. This, sisters, this should be the story we tell ourselves. This story can be running in our thoughts throughout our days. The long days of working, raising children, and the million loads of laundry. Let this be our background music to those days. We are worthy, we are enough, we are adored. You are made uniquely to display God’s glory. Grab hold of that story and let it be the song you sing.
About the Author:
Sharon Morginsky is mama to 5 children and wife to a hunk of a church planter. They planted Grace and Peace Church (PCA) in Denver in 2016, which is a church that seeks and works for racial equality and social justice for the glory of the Kingdom. She’s also a counselor who specializes in grief/loss, marriage therapy, anxiety/depression, and life transitions for women. She counsels people in Denver and also remotely across the US. In her free time she loves to be in the Colorado mountains hiking, biking, and snow shoeing. She values community, adventure, and soul talks over coffee. You can contact her through her website www.SharonMorginsky.com